I couldn't let this day go by without wishing one of my favorite food products a very happy 80th birthday! I plan to celebrate by purchasing a can today and making one of my favorites- -Spam pasta salad (but not with Ben's jalapeno variety).

Spam was introduced to a grateful nation in 1937 when the Hormel company was looking for a way to use the excess amounts of pork shoulder they were producing. They mixed it with ground ham, canned it and a legend was born.

But Spam really took off during World War II thanks to the meaty product's long shelf life and low cost. It was particularly appreciated in the Pacific theater during WWII and in fact to this day more Spam is consumed by Hawaiians than almost anywhere else in the world, (approximately 6 million cans per year).

However, Hawaiians believe the reason the rest of the planet besmirches its beloved "potted meat" (as Brits refer to it) is because it isn't prepared properly. Hawaiians fry it first to bring out the flavor and a lovely red color and then add it to favorite recipes, like Spam musubi, (a sort of Spam sushi).

Now to answer the age-old question: What is in Spam? Just six simple ingredients:(truthfully seven, if you separate the pork shoulder and ham, which Hormel does not), pork shoulder and ham, salt (a lot of it), water, potato starch (helps keep the meat moist), sugar, and sodium nitrite (a salt and anti-oxidant which prevents botulism growth and extends shelf-life).

Nutritionists have always had an issue with Spam because of the amount of sodium (790 milligrams), fat (16 grams total, 6 grams saturated), and cholesterol (40 milligrams) it contains. But that doesn't stop diehard "Spamheads" from imbibing regularly.

What is the significance of the name? The answer to that question has been lost to time and/or a small circle of Hormel company executives, neither of which are spilling the proverbial beans (which by the way are great with Spam). The long-held belief that "spiced ham" was the origin of the name is simply Spam mythology.

The are a dozen basic varieties, but there are also specialty versions like Spam Tocino, which is a Philippine recipe, a Portuguese sausage variety, and even a Puerto Rican favorite, Spam Mezclita sandwich spread, which mixes sweet red peppers, cheese and Spam Classic.

No matter how you slice it, (pardon the pun), dice, chop, saute or batter and deep fry it; people do love Spam despite their protestations to the contrary and its good name being lampooned and mocked incessantly through history. So I encourage Spam lovers worldwide, to unite, pop a top on a can today, salute its 80th birthday, and get your Spam on!

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